Friday, July 19, 2013

Box Set Blues: Breaking Bad, Series 1

For Fathers Day this year, I got Breaking Bad, a story about a middle-aged family man who, when faced with a life-changing crisis, takes to criminal ways. Hmmm. Anyhow, its a show that comes hugely lauded, one of the TV shows of the age, it seems, and something I've meant to start on for a long time, so I can't really question it as a great choice of present. Sadly, it's only 7 episodes long, so just as it really gets going, we ran of out of episodes. But what episodes!

Breaking Bad seems to come in three parts, intertwining but each probably enough material in itself. The first is the character of Walter White; a career re-defining turn from Bryan Cranston, who probably thought his career defined by Malcolm in the Middle. Walter is a family man, husband and father, a man who, it seems, has lived his life for other people. Formerly a research chemist, he know teaches at the local High School, and harbors a smoldering sense of resentment underneath the meek exterior, without detracting from the better side of his nature. He's a complex and interesting character, before anything else happens to him.

And then, of course, it transpires he has terminal lung cancer. Now this is the sort of storyline that can be "movie of the week" fare, but it's the impetus for Walt's move into the drugs trade, both for the cash it can provide for his family, and, it is implied, for the outlet for his frustrations. I've actually found the sections of Walt going through that early process - getting results, telling the family, just trying to come to terms with it all - really hard going at times. I've been there, had to have those conversations (not as bad a prognosis, obviously, thankfully) and it echos deep into some unhappy memories. I guess the fact that does so is a credit to the writing and acting, but still.

Finally there is Walt's descent into the Meth trade, and, I suspect the start of his climb up that ladder. With only seven episodes, we don't get too much of it, mostly the first "cook" and its repercussions, but it's gripping stuff, funny and disturbing at the same time. Also, I think we all learned a valuable lesson about body disposal!

Breaking Bad is one of those shows that is great, straight out of the gate. It's dark, witty, gripping, emotional, and pretty much everything you'd want from a modern drama. The acting and writing is fantastic, and it's littered with small details that build the key relationships together over the course of the episodes, rather than setting up big, exposition-heavy sequences. Its a show built on the foundations of the Televisual Golden Age we seem to be living through, and I really can't wait to get stuck into season two.